An Encounter at the Well
It's rare to find a book that makes me cry. The last page of Stephanie Landsem's The Well succeeded.
I picked up the book at the Catholic Writers' Conference last week, and decided on a whim to read it in the car as we left New Jersey. I finished it before we arrived back in Indianapolis!
The Well is Biblical historical fiction, focusing on the stories and challenges of a few who come to believe in Christ. How often do you think about the fact that every single person in the story of our salvation has his or her own story, and lived her own life?
Landsem's novel is a window into the life of the Samaritan woman at the well, from the fourth chapter of John's Gospel, through the eyes of Nava's daughter, Mara. Mara tries throughout the book to save her mother, who is gripped by sin and despair. Mara captivates the young, well-educated Shem, whose fiery hatred of injustice must be directed away from his guilt and desire for revenge. Their love story, slow to develop through their own inner conflicts, is challenging as it demonstrates the reality of true love. Love is a choice and requires sacrifice, a burden which both young people must learn to take up.
The Well is strongly written, no fluffy romance with hints of historical background dropped here and there for atmosphere. Stephanie's writing places you firmly on the dusty road of the village beside the rest of the Samaritans. The glimpses of Jesus and Mary are handled without too much detail, but just enough for the reader to perceive and be inspired by the power of the encounters.
Stephanie deserves to be ranked with Thomas B. Costain (The Silver Chalice) and Lloyd C. Douglas (The Robe). It's hard for me to place anyone over Louis de Wohl, but I may have to revise that opinion after I read The Thief and The Tomb! I definitely recommend this one, both to teens and adults. Frankly, I think every teen ought to read it just for the romance!
Check out Stephanie's blog here. I had the pleasure to meet her at the conference, and I'm hoping to have her over to the blog for an interview and guest post soon!
P.S. Follow Stephanie on Twitter at @stephlandsem and me at @CatholicLitGeek!